Beyond Competition and Innovation: The Need for Qualified Transparency in Internet Intermediaries

Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing, Internet and Search and Advertising

Article Snapshot


Frank Pasquale


Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 104, pg. 105, 2010


This article asks if key Internet services like search engines and ISPs should be regulated.

Policy Relevance

Regulators should require search engines to reveal how they manage data, to avoid harmful impacts on privacy, democracy, and other social and cultural values.

Main Points

  • Dominant search engines such as Google that gather information about users, rank web sites, and process information are not really objective. But their operation is often secret.

  • Some argue that competition will usually ensure that firms that discriminate unfairly or allow too much surveillance will be penalized by losing customers, and that antitrust can help when competition is not enough. But economic analysis does not address threats to values such as privacy, reputation, and democracy.

  • The FCC has begun to address this problem by proposing net neutrality rules and taking steps against discrimination by carriers.

  • The FTC has asked search engines to ensure that they separate advertisements from other search results.

  • Neither the FCC nor the FTC seems to understand how to enforce their guidelines, because so much of what Internet businesses like search engines do is kept confidential.

  • New rules should require firms like search engines to reveal how they manage information and networks to maintain their integrity.

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